End of the Road Festival

September 21, 2008

Larmer Tree Gardens, Wiltshire, 12-14 September

The last hurrah of the festival season got off to a bad start as a downpour left it awash with mud. As the rain poured, Brooklyn Forties swing outfit Clare and the Reasons brought a smile to everyone’s faces, singing the word ‘Obama’ to the melody of ‘Somewhere Over the Rainbow’. And what do you know? A whopping rainbow appeared.

The sun shone from that point on as 5,000 revellers connected with their inner child and wandered the enchanted woodlands (complete with piano, flashing disco floor and tree of knowledge with books for loan).

Much of the line-up consisted of reliable, if unadventurous, folk and Americana. Calexico and Mercury Rev both delivered big shows, heavy on lights and drama, while an animated Conor Oberst, backed by four beefy guitars, made for a great performance, though his classic rock set felt hollow compared with his solo introspection.

Most anticipated were Bon Iver, three young men from Wisconsin who held the festival in thrall, their falsetto harmonies and primal drumming melting even the most unromantic of hearts. The biggest drama came from the unlikeliest of sources. Alan Sparhawk, frontman of the mellow Low, ended his set by declaring ‘I’ve had a crap day. Everyone I love has told me they hate me’ and hurled his guitar into the crowd. Thankfully, no one was hurt.

Best performance Bon Iver.

Overheard ‘He said: “I could make you a natural beauty if I covered you in fake tan.”‘

Best discovery Wildbirds & Peacedrums.

This piece first appeared in The Observer Review

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